So after 6 weeks (slightly more), 10,000 miles by car (slightly less), 270 bird species (slightly more) and 100 ‘lifers’ (more), what’s it all been for??
Well, this was a holiday so it was about relaxing and I relaxed, but it was a holiday only possible after I gave up the well-paid post of RSPB Conservation Director. The prospect of this trip kept me going through the emotional times of leaving the RSPB and the trip provided me with practice in saying ‘they’ rather than ‘we’ when talking about the RSPB. Although it is still ‘we’ really.
I’ve travelled thru almost half of the US States – Virginia, North and South Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and California. 23 in all though I have been grazing rather than drinking deeply.
So what has it all been for? I wanted to make a clean break with the RSPB so disappearing for a while made it easier for them and easier for me. Any journey, and this has been a journey rather than a stay (much more active), is a journey of exploration and I have found out some things and decided some others. I’ve become more certain of what I love in life.
I am happy enough, for a while, with my own company. But I want nature in my life and that is important to me so I must stand up for nature in the years ahead. I’ve also enjoyed writing to you, Dear Reader, and writing must form part of my future too. But I’ve also realised how much I like talking to people – that’s important too.
And there are many things about which I have not yet written. I haven’t told you about the Indiana waitress’s warning (and she was the prettiest one of the lot), about my horrific bird misidentifications, about how to pay for gas in the US, about US talk radio, about games to play while driving, about the Carolina Parakeet or Heath Hen or Rocky Mountain Locust, about why I was lucky to get a car, about windfarms, about Bison or about the differences between the gents toilets in the UK and the US.
Some of what I have learned will crop up in this blog over the weeks and months ahead as it switches to being a commentary on how nature fares in the UK – and what should be done to improve its lot. So for some of you it’s worth sticking with this blog, for others maybe its interest will diminish. I’ll take a few days break in any case – a holiday after my holiday!
I come back to the UK with many great memories of places, nature and people – Grizzlies, Lou and Perry’s, the Badlands, Condors, Flagstaff, Little Bighorn and so much more. I come back with a tan, too many books, a new laptop and a greater knowledge of US geography.
My abiding sense is of a wonderful country with wonderful people. But a young country that not much more than a century ago was spreading West and causing ecological havoc. We did it too in Europe, but long long ago – the loss of species like the Passenger Pigeon and near loss of the Bison were late 19th century events that came to completion in the early 20th century and so are well-recorded.
Yesterday, at Malibu Lagoon, I saw a man walk along the shore while a Killdeer parent called loudly and incessantly. The man seemed completely unaware of the fact that he was disturbing the Killdeer’s chicks who were no doubt crouching in fear nearby, but maybe he just didn’t care. Much loss of wildlife on Earth is done without us realising what we are doing, without noticing the Killdeer crying out in distress, but some of what we do is done when we have the cries of nature ringing in our ears but we don’t listen.
I would have called from the bridge where I was watching if the man hadn’t moved on fairly quickly. Those of us who hear nature’s call need to stand up for nature and make a difference.
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